Arresting and threatening for the monarchy

8 06 2014

For a while, Thailand’s military dictatorship pretended that it was something else. Junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha pretended that he was “forced” into his illegal seizure of state power by “violence,” both real and pending. For a couple of days, as the military thugs called in political leaders from all sides, they pretended to be “even-handed,” just trying to “solve” the country’s “political problems.”

Naturally enough, PPT found such political games hard to swallow, but there was some media credibility given to these unlikely claims from the despots in green. Yet where were the detentions of the old men like Prasong Soonsiri who has been planning, boosting and supporting every single anti-government street protest since the People’s Alliance for Democracy was formed?

The real target was and remains the leadership of the red shirt movement, activists and intellectuals the military bosses believe support them, and everyone associated with allegedly anti-monarchy movements. That latter category apparently includes anyone who may have even given a little thought to reforming the draconian lese majeste law.

We now have a better idea of the methods and manner of the interrogations and pressures exerted on those called in.

At Khaosod, we are told of the military detention of Chiang Mai academic Kengkij Kitirianglarp. Surrounded “by a dozen security officers who were interrogating him,” he was pressured to provide information with what looks to PPT to be a clear intent to map an anti-monarchy movement, perhaps adding to their earlier manufacture of just such a chart.Kengkij

The academic stated that “he suspected the NCPO [the junta] summoned him and the 14 others … because they were considered potential violators of Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws.” He added:

Some officers actually told me they wanted to establish links we had with people who produced content [violating lese majeste]…. I believe they will summon the people who allegedly produced those materials in future announcements.

His interrogation “started with an army officer taking a survey of Mr. Kengkit’s opinions on the monarchy, lese majeste laws, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his political clan, and the military takeover on 22 May.”

A useful story at the Wall Street Journal examines the junta’s “stepping up their self-appointed role as guardians of the country’s revered [sic.] monarchy following last month’s coup d’état by threatening to try anyone who breaks the strict laws on criticizing the royal family in a military court.”

This is said to be “aimed at boosting the generals’ legitimacy” following the putsch.

David Streckfuss is cited, arguing that the junta “is trying to build a case that there are widespread violations of lèse majestè, part of what it might argue is an antimonarchy movement.” That’s true, but it is also a case that has been central to each of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movement since 2005. In other words, the military is doing the work of the movements that prompted Thailand’s second monarchist coup in 8 years.

Junta spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp is quoted in the article as saying that “stamping out illegal discussion of the monarchy” is a way to “get the country in good order and move forward.” In the way of all fascist regimes, creating “order” requires division.

The junta says it “is responding to public demand that it defend the monarchy from criticism.” He means the demand from right-wing anti-democrats.

The junta makes claims that is “uncovering a series of what it calls lèse majestè rings, where suspects allegedly gathered to view banned DVDs and other material.”

Thanapol Eawsakul, who was questioned and released by the junta, makes the obvious point that “the army appeared unusually interested in anyone discussing the monarchy’s role in the country.”

The reasons for this extremist military monarchism are several. For one thing, even if there wasn’t a succession crisis, and the evidence for it necessarily remained pretty thin given palace secrecy, it is now clear that a determined few have managed to create (at the very least) an impression that there is a real crisis. That impression itself poses a very real challenge to the monarchy. Related, Wikileaks cables showed that there really was a lot of palace political scheming and plotting and offered an account that both reinforced rumors and provided some evidence for the view that there is a succession problem.

A second reason relates to perception that the palace was deeply involved with the planning and instigation of the 2006 coup. The palace intervened to overthrow of an elected government apparently believing that it was a government rejected by the public and made the political (mis)calculation that its intervention would be welcomed.

A third reason is the known efforts by the palace, and associated with Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, to manipulate the military. Since he stepped down from the prime ministership in 1988, Prem has sought to manage every single promotion in the officer corps in a manner that maintained and strengthened the attachment of the top brass to the palace and king. Generally, that manipulation has produced a royalist military leadership that refuses to acknowledge the possibility of civilian control under elected governments.

A fourth reason is that the elite that has long managed and controlled Thailand  rightly considers that its economic power is constructed and maintained by a social and political structure that has two keystones, the military and the monarchy.

We could go on, but the point is clear: for a variety of reasons, the ideological core of the coup and its junta is the monarchy. This fact suggests that the monarchy and the system it represents – the old order – can only be maintained through massive repression, the control of the state’s coercive arms, and extensive censorship.

 


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